The Justice Department on Monday cleared Banc One Corp.'s $3.1 billion acquisition of First Commerce Corp. after the bank agreed to sell 25 branches in Louisiana with $614 million of deposits.

"With this divestiture, small- and medium-size businesses will continue to receive the most competitive loan rates and the best banking services," said Joel I. Klein, assistant attorney general for antitrust.

The branches are located in the parishes of Calcasieu, Lincoln, Ouachita, and Lafayette. Banc One also agreed not to prevent other banks from buying or leasing branches closed because of consolidation.

The merger was announced in October and will make Banc One the largest bank in Louisiana, where First Commerce is headquartered. The deal still must be approved by the Federal Reserve Board.

Still awaiting regulatory review is Banc One's recent $30 billion bid for First Chicago NBD Corp.

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